Humble Homeschool Beginnings

January 25, 2013

IM000689Many moons ago, when I started home educating my first child, I didn’t even know I was doing it. Nicky just naturally gravitated to books and floor puzzles and mazes and all sorts of logic-related stuff, and that’s the kind of thing we had around the house for him to fill his days with. (This was way before the Computer Age, y’all.)

And by the time Nicky turned three, I was expecting child number three. I laid around and read to those first little critters an awful lot in the early days.

Before long, the card-carrying, diploma-waving teacher in me decided I needed to set some goals and add some structure to my oldest child’s day.

Here is a short list of the personal goals I had when I “officially” began home educating my first child, Nicholas, at age four:

1.   Present new information in various forms: workbooks, readers, texts, etc.

2.   Test when necessary to make sure information is learned to an A level.

3.   Move on to the next thing, letting my child’s readiness be the guide.

Because I had that degree in elementary education and had taught school before having my own children, it never dawned on me that children would enjoy learning if left to themselves. I was prepared to entice and cajole my son into formal learning.

Isn’t that a strange thing to say? But it’s true. My experience in the classroom had taught me that children had to be pushed and pulled along, for the most part.

In my experience as a mom who was home educating her child, however, I found that Nicholas moved very, very quickly through his lessons because he could go at his own speed. He didn’t need to wait for the class to finish up; he was the class!

Nor did he know that he should not be enjoying this thing called school. Ah! But that was the difference! It was not school; it was learning at home. We weren’t up at the crack of dawn, gulping down breakfast, scrambling to find matching shoes, and running out the door to catch the school bus, separated from everything related to family.

Instead, learning was a natural thing done in the comfort of our own home along with family, on a schedule that worked well for us, not for an entire school system. What a cool thing it was to be able to tailor learning to my student! What an improvement over group learning!

I wasn’t just providing the opportunity for learning; I was there to ensure that learning took place, the learning of all the subject matter, not just 75 or 88 percent of it, but all of it. And then we moved on, directed solely by my son’s desire to learn—a desire which was surprisingly voracious.

Why would I want to send my child to a school when he could have such fun learning at home and could move at his own speed? And hang out with his sibs? And eat real food?

I simply did not want to miss out on time spent with him either. If I put him on a school bus, that meant forty fewer hours per week I would have to spend with him, times thirty-six weeks in a year. That equals 1,440 hours apart per year. Multiply that times twelve years, not counting kindergarten, and that comes out to 17,280 hours—roughly three full years of his life spent elsewhere.  Yikes! Why did I have a child only to entrust him to someone else to influence, mold, and shape? That didn’t make any sense to me.

I knew my son could learn better at home than he could anywhere else. For now, home education was for us. We’d worry about high school later.

Additionally, at age four, Nicky had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. This was quite a shock, of course. And years ago, there was no way to accurately test blood sugar at home as there is now.

Another reason we decided to keep Nicky at home was that we knew we could keep a better eye on his health challenges than any school nurse could.

If your child has chronic health issues, learning at home is certainly a wonderful option to explore.

Thus began our home-education adventure. Home-education adventures all have unique beginnings. What did yours look like?

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her best-selling book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Now This is a Graduation Speech!

January 12, 2013

female graduation portraitStressed for Success?

By David Brooks

(Joanne’s note: This high school graduation speech was NOT given to home-educated students, but I have kept this as encouragement, and I’ve put in bold those aspects of Mr. Brooks’ speech that speak to the beauty of home education.)

“Many of you high school seniors are in a panic at this time of year, coping with your college acceptance or rejection letters. Since the
admissions process has gone totally insane, it’s worth reminding yourself that this is not a particularly important moment in your life.

You are being judged according to criteria that you would never use to judge another person and which will never again be applied to you
once you leave higher ed.

For example, colleges are taking a hard look at your SAT scores. But if at any moment in your later life you so much as mention your SAT
scores in conversation, you will be considered a total jerk. If at age 40 you are still proud of your scores, you may want to contemplate a major
life makeover.

More than anything else, colleges are taking a hard look at your grades. To achieve that marvelous G.P.A., you will have had to demonstrate excellence across a broad range of subjects: math, science, English, languages etc.

This will never be necessary again. Once you reach adulthood, the key to success will not be demonstrating teacher-pleasing competence
across fields; it will be finding a few things you love, and then committing yourself passionately to them.

The traits you used getting good grades might actually hold you back. To get those high marks, while doing all the extracurricular activities colleges are also looking for, you were encouraged to develop a prudential attitude toward learning.

You had to calculate which reading was essential and which was not. You could not allow yourself to be obsessed by one subject because if you did, your marks in the other subjects would suffer. You could not take outrageous risks because you might fail.

You learned to study subjects that are intrinsically boring to you; slowly, you may have stopped thinking about which subjects are boring and which exciting. You just knew that each class was a hoop you must jump through on your way to a first-class university. You learned to thrive in adult-supervised settings.

If you have done all these things and you are still an interesting person, congratulations, because the system has been trying to whittle you down into a bland, complacent achievement machine.

But in adulthood, you’ll find that a talent for regurgitating what superiors want to hear will take you only halfway up the ladder, and then you’ll stop there. The people who succeed most spectacularly, on the other hand, often had low grades. They are not prudential. They venture out and thrive where there is no supervision, where there are no preset requirements.

Those admissions officers may know what office you held in school government, but they can make only the vaguest surmises about what
matters, even to your worldly success: your perseverance, imagination, and trustworthiness. Odds are you don’t even know these things
about yourself yet, and you are around you a lot more.

Even if the admissions criteria are dubious, isn’t it still really important to get into a top school? I wonder. I spend a lot of time meeting with students on college campuses. If you put me in a room with 15 students from any of the top 100 schools in this country and asked me at the end of an hour whether these were Harvard kids or Penn State kids, I would not be able to tell you.

There are a lot of smart, lively young people in this country, and you will find them at whatever school you go to. The students at the really elite schools may have more social confidence, but students at less prestigious schools may learn not to let their lives be guided by other people’s status rules – a lesson that is worth the tuition all by itself.

As for the quality of education, that’s a matter of your actually wanting to learn and being fortunate enough to meet a professor who electrifies your interest in a subject. That can happen at any school because good teachers are spread around, too.

So remember, the letters you get over the next few weeks don’t determine anything. Picking a college is like picking a spouse. You don’t pick the “top ranked” one, because that has no meaning. You pick the one with the personality and character that complements your own.

You may have been preparing for these letters half your life. All I can say is welcome to adulthood, land of the anticlimaxes.”


9 Maxims for Homeschool Happiness

December 28, 2012

Family Walking Through Snowy Woodland In light of the beginning of a brand-new year, I thought I would share some of the stuff I’ve learned over the years that I think has been pivotal in the raising of my children.

So below you’ll find a compilation of my best tips for raising smart, motivated kids who learn and work with excellence (most of the time).

1. Develop good habits yourself. Be a good example of reading for pleasure. Let your children see you doing the things you want them to develop a love for doing such as

reading, writing, exercising, eating well, or whatever may be on your list.

2. Always remember that you are what you teach, and you teach what you are.

Ouch. I revisit this maxim frequently, especially when I see my bad habits showing up in my children. This is a variation of the first maxim.

3. Neatness counts. We are all more relaxed and focused when our homes are RELATIVELY neat, right? I am not talking about extremes here. I assure you that my house is not a showplace; we live and work here. I’m simply talking about being able to see the family room floor. Kids function better in order than they do in chaos.

Yeah, let’s move on. I get hives thinking about how organized my house is not.

4. Have expectations and enforce them. Expect honesty and trustworthiness every day. Expect cheerful obedience the first time you ask your child to do something. Sullen faces and attitudes do not belong in a happy home. You are the Mom (or Dad). You get to be the one in control of what behavior and attitudes are acceptable in your home.

5. Have a general routine. Find what works for YOUR FAMILY. Children need a sense of what is coming next. Our routine here is very laid back now that my baby is almost eleven and the other three girls are teens. It was much more regulated when we had a lot of young children.

6. Know where you are headed. A little planning is all you need for each quarter of your homeschool year. (Refer to The Self-Propelled Student Planners for help in this area if you need it. These planners have changed my life!)

7. Teach your children to enjoy the feeling of a job well done. Intrinsic motivation will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

8. Expect mastery learning every day, in every subject. Before long, students begin to expect it of themselves. That is a really cool thing and will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

9. Trust your instincts.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


SAT Perfect Score Conclusion (Probably)

December 17, 2012

YTo conclude the last few blog posts’ worth of examination of Dr. Tom Fischgrund’s Perfect Score Study of 600 perfect-SAT-scoring students and their families (breathe here), I’d like to point out that the students who were the subject of the study did not revel in their perfect scores.

Sure, they were happy about their scores, but they didn’t define who they were by test scores.

As Dr. Fischgrund found,

“Perfect score students would probably never have been able to succeed if their parents never took the giant leap of letting their kids have some control over their academic lives.”[1]

Letting go and allowing our children to have a measure of control academically is vitally important.

Yes, I was very, very encouraged by the way the Perfect Score Study results echoed the results my family has had. The similarities were almost eerie.

It should not surprise me that strong family values are so important to academic success because apparently the Moms and Dads in this study set expectations when their children were young and didn’t allow them to slack off at home.

They were able to motivate their young children, and as the children matured, the parents were able to take a more hands-off approach to their young teens’ learning.

Once the teens became high school seniors, they had a sense of purpose as a result of developing one or two core passions before graduation. They had a direction to pursue after high school. They could see the bigger picture.

Parents, we have not only the responsibility but also the privilege of having the greatest influence on our children.

Would your children say that you and your spouse are the primary influences in their lives?

This is what I get from the Perfect Score Study: kids succeed with support in the home. I’m not talking about simply success on the SAT; I am talking about success in life!

Scoring well on the SAT or ACT is not a goal in my home-educating family. I want that to be perfectly clear. What I am laying out for you here is the fact that young adults who have been given the opportunity to be independent learners, who master each day’s work before moving on to the next day’s lesson, will be equipped to score well on the College Board exams.

Does that mean I think these exams are good things? No, not necessarily. I hate that so much hinges on them, and I guarantee they are not predictors of success in college or beyond. They are hoops through which our young people must jump if they want to head to college, and especially if they want to earn scholarship money for college.

All three elements of the Self-Propelled advantage ~ self-mastery, self-learning, and mastery learning ~ will absolutely give your children an advantage in scholarship competitions.

Beyond that, a firm family foundation will give your children an advantage that goes way beyond that type of success. There is nothing that can replace the value of family. 

[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 74.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Motivation & The Perfect Score Study (Part 1)

December 5, 2012

greenboard

We’ve been talking at great length about Motivation over the past severl blog posts, and I finished off the last one by talking about the relationship between those children who did NOT eat the marshmallow and high SAT scores. Speaking of high SAT scores, I’d like to relay a little of my own experience in tandem with a study done by Tom Fischgrund, PhD.

While browsing a local bookstore a couple of years ago, I came across a book, entitled SAT Perfect Score: 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score. What interested me about this book was the fact that the author, with the blessing of the SAT Board, did a study of 160 college-bound high school seniors who had achieved perfect 800s on both the verbal and the math portions of the SAT in the year 2000.

His goal? Find out what makes these kids tick. What do they have in common? Who are they? How do they think? What do they aspire to? What are their academic habits? He also did a study of average-scoring kids, and this group served as a control group. No study like this had been done before.

Since I have a perfect SAT scorer and a near-perfect SAT scorer in my home, I was more than a little interested to see what this study revealed and how my sons, Nick and Taylor, compared to the kids Dr. Fischgrund interviewed for his book. Unfortunately, SAT Perfect Score is out of print, but you can find copies on Amazon and other used book outlets. I highly recommend this book for anyone who is a student of motivational theory. You’ll see why as I share some juicy tidbits of information that relate to motivation from my well-worn copy of the 7 Secrets.

First, here is what the author says about his work:

“I have to admit that I was surprised by many of the findings of the Perfect Score Study. As a professional educator and a high-level recruiter, I have studied the best and the brightest for twenty years. When I looked at the information I had gathered in the Perfect Score Study and shared the results with knowledgeable professionals in the education field, we all agreed that we were amazed by the common trends that exist among perfect score students.

The brightest of the bright students have common personality traits and lifestyle habits that made it possible for them to score a 1600. I call these the 7 Secrets of Perfect Score Students.”[1]

Keep in mind that this particular study involved the interview of one-hundred-sixty high school seniors, plus about fifty average students from a control group. Parents of the perfect score students were also contacted in order to corroborate what their kids said, as well as provide input on how self-motivated they thought their students were. I will not reveal the seven secrets here because I think everyone should get the book and read it for themselves, but I will share a few surprising statistics from the study. Here we go.

Who do you think studied more, the perfect score students or the control group of students? Surprisingly, they both averaged ten hours a week of study time. About 80 percent of perfect score students attended public high schools, and there was not a higher incidence of perfect scorers from private schools with smaller class sizes. The average class size was twenty-three students, which is close to the national average.

“Only 1 percent of perfect score students are homeschooled, which is even less than the national average.” And only one perfect score student in the study was home educated. In fact, Dr. Fischgrund states, “The 7 Secrets will reveal that homeschooling doesn’t offer an advantage—and may even be a disadvantage when it comes to doing well on the SAT.”[2] We will definitely take a closer look at home education and scoring well on the SAT.

Here is a startling statistic:

“Ninety percent of perfect score students come from intact as opposed to divorced families, compared with 66 percent of all U.S. high school students who come from intact families.”[3]

Just so you truly get this, let me put it this way: The vast majority of perfect SAT scorers came from public schools and from homes that had been untouched by divorce. Fascinating, don’t you think? It makes sense that homes where there is relative peace will spawn children who can be more single-minded in their pursuits.

One other statistic I am compelled to share:

“Perfect score students are just as athletic as other high school students.”[4]

Some people may find that surprising. I do not because my kids are very athletic. But they don’t get it from me!

Are Perfect Scorers Weird?     

What does a perfect scorer look like? First of all, it is important to know that perfect SAT scorers from this study saw their scores as simply a means to an end and not as the end itself. They had a well-rounded view of life in addition to a core set of values. They were always looking for a challenge, and they were multi-faceted individuals. Most were avid readers who read for enjoyment and learned for enjoyment. They were not motivated by external rewards; they possessed an intrinsic motivation system that drove them to do their best and to be self-motivated.

And believe it or not, these kids were not classified as geeks.

They were very likeable kids who were not likely to broadcast their perfect scores because they were quite humble about their achievements.[5] That pretty much sums up my sons, Nick and Taylor. They don’t discuss their test scores because they are not defined by a test score. They are both humble, athletic, fun-loving guys who throw themselves into every project they undertake.

Alas, my other six children are oddly motivated to succeed as well. They all have a desire to excel at whatever they undertake. While my kids may not all have perfect SAT scores, they all sport the same drive and determination to succeed. They each have one or two core passions that drive them, and they have parents, siblings, and friends who support them in their daily lives. I don’t care whether or not any of my kids ever score perfectly on any test. What is important is that they possess attitudes that fuel their motivation about learning and that they pursue their passions.

References:
[1] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, SAT Perfect Score; 7 Secrets to Raise Your Score, p. 53; hereafter cited as 7 Secrets.
[2] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 44.
[3] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 19.
[4] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 49.
[5] Tom Fischgrund, PhD, 7 Secrets, p. 163

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Motivation: Seeing the Big Marshmallow

December 1, 2012

marshmallow_treatpops_2This is, like, my fourth post on Motivation for students, primarily, but helpful for other species of humans as well. If you missed yesterday’s post on Motivation and Marshmallows, you may want to scroll down my blog here and catch that one first. This post concerning the Marshmallow Study will make a heckuva lot more sense if you take just a couple seconds and read it first. If you’re a rebel, feel free to skip the advice.

If you are interested in the application of the Marshmallow Study, as it’s been dubbed, to success in business and in your personal life, I recommend a book entitled, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! The Secret to Sweet Success in Work and Life by Joachim de Posada and Ellen Singer. This gem of a book looks at why intelligence and hard work don’t necessarily equal success, and how you can utilize delayed gratification in your daily life to reach your own goals.

Common sense dictates that if you are smart and work hard, you will be successful. Not necessarily, according to Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet.

After reading de Posada’s book, it became apparent to me that the real secret to success is seeing the big picture, which is an incredibly motivating thing to do. When we only see the little individual marshmallow instead of the benefits of waiting to eat it—doubling our reward—we miss out on half of the benefits. We lose opportunity as a result of our impatience and shortsightedness. It takes foresight and vision to hold out for the rewards that are ours when we keep our eyes on the big picture and finally reach our ultimate goals.

Incidentally, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! offers a “Five-Step Marshmallow Plan.” Following this simple plan really helped me focus and see what I needed to change and do in order to begin reaching my goals via delayed gratification.

Seeing the Big Picture

What motivates a student who thinks that he is at the mercy of his teachers and that he must do whatever those teachers tell him to do?

Very little motivates him when he has no control over his environment.

A home-educated student is also unlikely to be motivated day after day when he doesn’t see the big picture, when he doesn’t see a purpose in the work he is doing. A big part of motivation is understanding the why behind what we are doing. I will be much more intrinsically motivated when I see how what I am doing right now will benefit me in the long run. How will what I do today or what I am asked to do by my employer or by my teacher be moving me towards my goals?

If we have no goals at all except to get through the day, chances are good that we will be unhappy. The human spirit thrives on challenge and success. Motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic, is necessary for a well-balanced life.

I admit that I have worked simply for a paycheck before. Perhaps you have too. Because I could see the big picture—putting food on the table—I was willing to work for that extrinsic reward. Eventually, my situation changed. Remember me saying that motivation changes? It sure does. Now I am self-employed, and I’m very intrinsically motivated to work for the sake of helping others and not for monetary reward. In fact, I hate taking people’s money. If I could, I would give all of my products away.

The self-propelled student is motivated intrinsically by seeing the big picture, setting simple goals, and then moving closer and closer to those goals. By teaching our children to see the big picture, teaching them how to set goals, and helping to remove any obstacles that would prevent them from reaching those goals, we are giving them an edge. We are giving them the tools with which to master themselves, and as a result, they will hang in there not for immediate gratification, but for the purpose of reaching their goals. That is delayed gratification at its best.

Marshmallows and the SAT

Interestingly, another follow-up to the original Marshmallow Study was done in 1990, and it found a correlation between the ability to delay gratification and higher SAT scores. Those who did not eat the marshmallow scored higher on the SAT than those who gobbled up their marshmallows. Isn’t that fascinating? I think so.

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


Motivation and Marshmallows

November 30, 2012

Pink and White marshmallowsMany moons ago, in 1972, a landmark study was done by Walter Mischel of Stanford University using marshmallows to assess the ability of preschool children, ages four to six, to delay gratification.

Children were placed in a room by a researcher, and each was given a marshmallow. The children were told that if they could wait until the researcher came back into the room before eating their marshmallow, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. Then the researcher would leave the room for fifteen long minutes. (Remember how long fifteen minutes seemed to you when you were a preschooler?)

The results? Some of the children resisted eating the marshmallow—others didn’t. Out of the roughly six hundred children who participated in the study, only one-third were able to resist the call of the marshmallow and receive a second one as a reward.

While the original purpose of this study was to confirm a hypothesis about delayed gratification and age, this experiment has been repeated many, many times to prove or disprove various other hypotheses.

In fact, Mischel performed a similar experiment on the island of Trinidad using chocolate bars in order to see if ethnicity had any effect on delayed gratification. He found that while ethnicity did not, social and economic status did. Isn’t that fascinating?

But what fascinates me even more is a follow-up study that Mischel did on a group of the original “marshmallow children.”

Researchers interviewed them years later and discovered that those who were motivated to hold out for the second marshmallow, exhibiting self-control at a young age, had become more successful as adults than their counterparts who had given into temptation.

What does this study say about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

The kids who waited those fifteen long minutes weren’t thinking intrinsically, were they? I mean, they weren’t focused on the good feeling they were going to get from successfully waiting out the researcher. No, they were looking to the end goal which was two delicious treats instead of just one.

They were able to see the big picture which enabled them to demonstrate self-control.

They definitely liked marshmallows, right? It wasn’t that one-third of the children hated marshmallows. We can say they were motivated extrinsically—but one marshmallow wasn’t enough. One marshmallow just didn’t make sense when they could have two.

This study reveals that some children aren’t satisfied with what just anyone can have; they want more, and they will do what it takes to get more of what they want—in this case, marshmallows. They weren’t trying to make anyone happy by their choice. They were just doing what came naturally: “Well, if I can have two, why settle for one? This is easy! All I have to do is wait.”

The other, larger group of children apparently couldn’t see the big picture. They could only see what was before them: a fat, squishy, deliciously-tantalizing marshmallow, and the motivation to get twice as much out of the deal just wasn’t there. They gobbled up the first marshmallow (although some of the children played around with their marshmallow first, licking it a bit and holding it in their hands before giving in), and their reward was only one marshmallow.

Conclusion?

From this study, it was concluded that those who had the ability to wait for gratification became more successful adults, and I am assuming that by successful, the study means better jobs and all the trappings that go along with such things, which may not be everyone’s definition of success. A pretty impressive study and conclusion, nonetheless.

Danggit. Now I really want a marshmallow or two!

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About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of URtheMOM.com, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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